When Gov. Brian Schweitzer allowed the heavy-handed and patently unjust eminent domain bill pushed by Canada’s Tonbridge Ltd. to become law last year, he called it “a deal with the devil.” He got that right!
House Bill 198 passed the legislature and became law on the promise of good jobs for Montana workers. It was even touted as the “Montana jobs bill of the session.” To “put Montanans to work,” HB 198 (unconscionably, in my opinion) changed Montana eminent domain law so that Tonbridge could run roughshod over the private property rights of Montana farmers and ranchers and expedite the construction of the Montana Alberta Tie Line. Regardless of any other arguments made for this bill, it simply would not have become law if not for the promise of jobs, jobs and more jobs for Montana workers.
Here’s the devil’s deal: Tonbridge (now Enbridge) got eminent domain powers to use against Montana farmers and ranchers, then contracted with out-of-state companies using out-of-state workers to build their power line. There were maybe a couple of Montana plates at construction sites. Bottom line: Out-of-state workers now have the jobs Montana workers should have.
This is a sad commentary on how our state too often falls for false job promises, even to the point of sacrificing something as valued, sacrosanct and time honored as private property rights. It’s time we look out first for Montana values, Montana workers, Montana families and Montana businesses. And jobs? Absolutely. Jobs for Montana workers—Montanans building Montana.
Montana Public Service Commission